The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 2/28/13, 7:00 PM ET

Obama administration weighs in on Prop 8

In a stunning move, the Justice Department urges SCOTUS to overturn California's same-sex marriage ban.  "Modern Family" star Jesse Tyler Ferguson reacts to...

Jesse Tyler Ferguson wearing a bowtie for marriage equality

Updated

Jesse Tyler Ferguson of Modern Family joined msnbc’s The Last Word Thursday evening and discussed the recent launch of the non-profit he has started with his fiance, Justin Mikita, called Tie the Knot , an effort they hope will help the LGBT community.

A prominent gay rights advocate, Ferguson discussed the added support from President Obama’s administration urging the Supreme Court to overturn California’s gay marriage ban, or Prop 8. The Obama administration filed a legal brief on Thursday, in addition to the Justice Department and 13 states, in support of the two gay couples who initiated the fight over Prop 8 four years ago.

Separately this past week, prominent Republicans signed a legal brief urging the Supreme Court to declare that same-sex couple have a constitutional right to wed. The list of Republicans, which includes Beth Myers, Mitt Romney’s senior adviser, former New Hampshire Congressman Charles Bass, and former Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, has grown to more than 100. Their opinion differs on constitutionality: a position that slightly differs from President Obama’s, who favors same-sex marriage but would leave the issue up to the states.

Ferguson said on msnbc, “We have a lot of people like the president saying he supports marriage equality…It’s bigger than I think he realizes it is, because I think people kind of wait for the cue and that was a really big cue. And now, people are just lining up and saying, ‘I also support.’”

The brief was filed on Thursday to the lawsuit that hopes to overturn Prop 8. This case was heard alongside a request to the court that it overturn the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman.

In 2008, 52% of California voters approved banning marriage equality only recognizing marriage as a union between a man and a woman, even after 18,000 same-sex couples were legally married earlier that year. California’s top officials, including Attorney General Kamala Harris, have joined the side of the gay plaintiffs. In a brief filed earlier this week, Harris noted that more than 50,000 children in California are being raised by same-sex couples.

The Emmy-nominated actor discussed Tie the Knot’s second collection of neckwear. All proceeds from the sale of the bow ties would go to several organizations fighting for marriage equality. Ferguson and Mikita raised $50,000 for their foundation’s first beneficiary – The Human Rights Campaign–and have announced The Respect for Marriage Coalition as the second beneficiary from the sales of the second bow tie collection.

Ferguson has always been an active proponent of marriage equality. The actor emceed the president’s LGBT fundraiser in Hollywood in 2012 and met with Illinois lawmakers to push marriage equality. msnbc’s Chris Hayes asked Ferguson about how his sitcom, Modern Family, is driving public opinion even more powerfully than politicians are.

Ferguson replied, “It’s tough, because we are a sitcom and we keep ourselves light. I do think it’s obviously a hot topic right now–marriage equality. And Modern Family serves as a cultural touchstone so that it does play a part in that. I think it’s a safe in for a lot of people.”

Also on Thursday, 15 states argued that the law preventing the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. The states filed an amicus brief in the case challenging DOMA, United States v. Windsor, arguing that it “violates the fundamental constitutional guarantee of equal protection.”

Same-sex marriage is currently legal in nine states and in Washington, D.C, a fact that Ferguson sang about when he introduced the launch of his foundation, Tie the Knot. The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments March 26th to decide the fate of Prop 8.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson wearing a bowtie for marriage equality

Updated